Picross, as the name sort-of implies, is picture crosswords. The two-dimensional variety feels a lot like Sudoku cross with a crossword puzzle. You’ve got numbers along the top and left of a grid telling you how many squares are filled in. That’s not all the information you need to figure out the puzzle and draw the picture though. What the numbers don’t (always) tell you is how many of the squares are no filled in. If your picross grid is small (let’s say 5×5), and “2 2” is one of your clues then you know that particular line is “shaded shaded blank shaded shaded” because that is the only arrangement that satisfies what “2 2” tells you which is “2 shaded squares, >0 blank squares, 2 shaded squares.” As puzzles get more complicated you’ll need to determine where some blanks are guaranteed to be and where some shaded squares are guaranteed to be in order to draw the picture. It’s a fun little puzzle, and it works great on the DS (if you don’t already have 2007’s Picross DS you should pick it up as it’s a ridiculous value). Now, extend that basic idea into three dimensions and you’ve got Picross 3D.
When working in three dimensions instead of two, the clues take on a different format and the presentation changes. No longer are you marking the squares you need on a grid – now your task is more akin to sculpting than painting as you’ll use the clues to chip away blocks that you don’t need from the puzzle. Picross in 3D is more complex than Picross in 2D, but HAL does a good, if lengthy, job of teaching the mechanics and then setting the player loose on a puzzle that makes use of the newly learned trick. Since the clues are written on the faces of blocks HAL had to come up with a way of telling you how many groups of blocks are in each row or column. “2 2 2” won’t fit so they went to shapes. Numbers mean one group, circled numbers mean two groups, and squared numbers mean three or more groups. It takes a little getting used to, but all of the puzzles are designed with the clue system in mind so you never feel like you’re missing vital information. My only complaint is that it’s easy to mess up slicing the puzzle open and chipping away that one block that doesn’t belong.
After you learn all of the games tricks it is time to start earning stars. Each puzzle has three stars associated with it: one for completing the puzzle, one for completing the puzzle quickly, and one for completing the puzzle without trying to chip away a necessary block. Another small touch (which you’ll remember from Mario’s Picross) is that once a puzzle is completed the created object animates for a moment. The train chugs, the whistle blows, etc.. It’s little touches like this that set puzzle games on the DS apart from their Flash counterparts on the Internet. Accrue enough stars in each set and you’ll unlock the bonus level.
Picross 3D took another page from Picross DS’s book, and it’s a good one. The online component allows you to download new puzzles from the Nintendo WiFi Connection service. You can also upload puzzles of your own creation to the service for others to try. And if you have friends that really ought to try Picross 3D out you can send a demo of the game from your DS to theirs (alternatively you can just hand them your DS). Picross 3D, like Picross DS before it, is easy to learn, and difficult and rewarding to master. If you’re itching for a new puzzler on the DS then give Picross 3D a shot – with 350 puzzles on the cartridge you’ll be busy for a good long time.
Plays Like: Picross DS, Mario’s Picross
Pros: Lots of puzzles, good tutorial
Cons: Can still be difficult to think in three dimensions and chisel that last block out of the middle of a puzzle